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maddog0512

Lesson With a Pro That Doesn't Understand Ball Flight Laws

36 posts in this topic

I went to the range tonight to hit two large buckets (my daily routine).  The first bucket, I only hit my PW and 6i and was feeling pretty good.  Most shots were on target and had good distance/trajectory.  For the second, I pulled out my driver and everything went to crap.

After watching every banana ball slice way right of the would be fairway (200 yards out and 50-75 yards right) I got frustrated and stopped in to talk to the pro about getting a lesson.  Before I knew it, I was signed up for a lesson this Friday.  I told him that with my driver the ball is starting straight and then heading right, so I've been working on my path and trying to stop cutting across the ball.  He told me that my path isn't the problem and that I'm not releasing the club.  I started to go into how the ball starts where the face is pointing and curves away from the path.  He then proceeded to tell me I was wrong and it was the exact opposite i.e. path determines initial flight and face determines where the ball ends up.

Long story short, I have a lesson with a pro that doesn't understand the true ball flight laws.  I kind of wanted to cancel the appointment then and there but I see this guy quite a bit and didn't want to be rude.  So I'm thinking that I will do the lesson Friday and see what he has to say and who knows, maybe he'll "fix" me.

I wanted to tell him he was wrong but didn't want to be a jerk.  Needless to say, I'm a little apprehensive about the lesson.  Has anyone else taken a lesson from an instructor that held the "old school" ball flight laws?

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Show him some proof. If he still will not believe it, I would not give him any money.
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Take the lesson because it would be good for someone else with a trained eye to look at your swing. If the pro is any good he will be able to see immediately what the issue is.

With respect to your interpretation of the laws of ball flight one way to hit an intentional fade or draw is to point your club face in the direction of the intended target, grip the club, align yourself to compensate for the flightpath of the ball and then swing normally. The end result is the path of the ball starts out along your foot alignment (and presumably your swing path) and then curves to where the face is aligned. This is how Jack Nicklaus was able to control the ball as well as he did. In other words the pro is 100% correct about club face angle and resulting ball flight path.

What the pro is telling you is that you have unintentionally done the same thing by not releasing the club head at impact. An open club face will result in a fade/cut/slice. One way to tell would be to look at your hand position after impact. Is your bottom hand rotated over the top hand?

You might well be right too about an outside-in swing path being part of the problem but the pro should be able to see that when you hit a few balls during your lesson.

Good Luck!

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Originally Posted by DufferAndHacker

Take the lesson because it would be good for someone else with a trained eye to look at your swing. If the pro is any good he will be able to see immediately what the issue is.

With respect to your interpretation of the laws of ball flight one way to hit an intentional fade or draw is to point your club face in the direction of the intended target, grip the club, align yourself to compensate for the flightpath of the ball and then swing normally. The end result is the path of the ball starts out along your foot alignment (and presumably your swing path) and then curves to where the face is aligned. This is how Jack Nicklaus was able to control the ball as well as he did. In other words the pro is 100% correct about club face angle and resulting ball flight path.

What the pro is telling you is that you have unintentionally done the same thing by not releasing the club head at impact. An open club face will result in a fade/cut/slice. One way to tell would be to look at your hand position after impact. Is your bottom hand rotated over the top hand?

You might well be right too about an outside-in swing path being part of the problem but the pro should be able to see that when you hit a few balls during your lesson.

Good Luck!

That is how Jack THOUGHT he was controlling the ball but that is not what was actually happening.  The old ball flight laws produce uncontrollable hooks and slices.

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maddog - I think there's a decent chance that I understand the physics of impact and ballflight better than my pro, but he can flat out teach golf and I flat out can't (ask my kids).

I first went to him complaining that I was hooking my driver off the course. After watching me hit some balls, he correctly guessed that I had some plane issues that were making decent ball contact difficult - and he cleaned things up with lots of wedge shots and pitching drills. The next time I suffered a bout of hooking problems, he saw a sequencing issue rather than a simple path/face problem. Again, he sorted me out.

In both cases, I can guarantee you that my knowledge of the correct ball-flight laws was not enough for me to fix myself. And in both cases, what my pro could see in my swing got me back on track.

I believe that it's always a bit of a gamble spending money with a golf pro who you don't really know. It's a given that there will be guys out there with a diploma in "New Ballflight Laws" who, for one reason or another, won't help you either enough or at all. Ask around to find out who has got a good reputation, and if possible, find out why they're supposed to be so good. Or spend your own money to find out for yourself.

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Originally Posted by 14ledo81

Show him some proof. If he still will not believe it, I would not give him any money.

I feel like that might make things a little awkward given that I see him almost every day.

Originally Posted by birlyshirly

maddog - I think there's a decent chance that I understand the physics of impact and ballflight better than my pro, but he can flat out teach golf and I flat out can't (ask my kids).

I first went to him complaining that I was hooking my driver off the course. After watching me hit some balls, he correctly guessed that I had some plane issues that were making decent ball contact difficult - and he cleaned things up with lots of wedge shots and pitching drills. The next time I suffered a bout of hooking problems, he saw a sequencing issue rather than a simple path/face problem. Again, he sorted me out.

In both cases, I can guarantee you that my knowledge of the correct ball-flight laws was not enough for me to fix myself. And in both cases, what my pro could see in my swing got me back on track.

I believe that it's always a bit of a gamble spending money with a golf pro who you don't really know. It's a given that there will be guys out there with a diploma in "New Ballflight Laws" who, for one reason or another, won't help you either enough or at all. Ask around to find out who has got a good reputation, and if possible, find out why they're supposed to be so good. Or spend your own money to find out for yourself.

This makes me feel a little better.  It can't hurt to have someone else take a look at my swing.  I'll report back after my lesson to let y'all know if I'm suddenly crushing 300 yard bombs down the middle of the fairway.

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maddog, I can appreciate the predicament you are in.  You certainly don't want to go alienating yourself by calling him out on his teaching practices.  In retrospect, it would be nice to have known his views first then you would have just skipped the lesson altogether.  But since you didn't ...

I say, just go with the flow.  Take the one lesson, be polite and listen to everything he tells you (who knows, maybe something will click?) and then afterwards, say thanks, and that will be that.

Just like you have enough sense to ignore silly tips in Golf Digest that counter what you know to be true, you will probably be able to know which ideas he has that are accurate and which ones are "against the grain."  And if you're unsure, post it here and the experts (not me!!!!) will be able to help as well.

Good luck!

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Knowing the ball flight laws won't help it go straight...as you can see.
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Originally Posted by DufferAndHacker

Take the lesson because it would be good for someone else with a trained eye to look at your swing. If the pro is any good he will be able to see immediately what the issue is.

With respect to your interpretation of the laws of ball flight one way to hit an intentional fade or draw is to point your club face in the direction of the intended target, grip the club, align yourself to compensate for the flightpath of the ball and then swing normally. The end result is the path of the ball starts out along your foot alignment (and presumably your swing path) and then curves to where the face is aligned. This is how Jack Nicklaus was able to control the ball as well as he did. In other words the pro is 100% correct about club face angle and resulting ball flight path.

What the pro is telling you is that you have unintentionally done the same thing by not releasing the club head at impact. An open club face will result in a fade/cut/slice. One way to tell would be to look at your hand position after impact. Is your bottom hand rotated over the top hand?

You might well be right too about an outside-in swing path being part of the problem but the pro should be able to see that when you hit a few balls during your lesson.

Good Luck!

Read the first post again, maddog is correct, ball starts where the face is pointing and curves away from the path.  Most fades/slices are hit with a face LEFT of the target.  Check out this article, this isn't an interpretation, just physics http://thesandtrap.com/b/playing_tips/ball_flight_laws

Originally Posted by jstar

Knowing the ball flight laws won't help it go straight...as you can see.

No but it helps avoid getting deeper into trouble.  Example: Player is hitting pull hooks.  The pro working off the fairy tale ball flight laws would say he needs to swing more to the right.  Face is at or left of target and the golfer is already swinging outward.  So now the instructor is making him swing more to right.  Only going to make things worse, both with the path and face alignments.

Originally Posted by maddog0512

I feel like that might make things a little awkward given that I see him almost every day.

This makes me feel a little better.  It can't hurt to have someone else take a look at my swing.  I'll report back after my lesson to let y'all know if I'm suddenly crushing 300 yard bombs down the middle of the fairway.


Maybe share with him the article I posted above.  Can even demonstrate it with a putter or a short chip shot, have the face pointed way to the right and swing it left.

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I wanted to report back after my lesson.  It went much, much better than I expected.  As I said above, he told me my problem was that I wasn't releasing the club.  I had thought that my ball was starting straight and then tailing off right (which meant path problems, not face) but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the ball was starting slightly right of target and slicing.  Maybe he was onto something.  Anyway, I worked on my release on Wednesday with my driver really focusing on feeling my forearms "turn over."  I've never hit the driver straighter or farther.  I took it out on the course Thursday with some coworkers and shot a 45 on 9 holes which is HUGE for me (I had three 3 putts and a 4 putt, ouch).  I was manipulating my stance and face at address but it's because I knew I still wasn't fully releasing the club.  I just barely missed driving the green on the first hole (it's a short par 4, 295 yards) and getting my first ever birdie as my putt lipped out

Anyway, back to the lesson.  I showed up and he handed me a bucket and told me to warm up.  I was out there 10 minutes before he came out.  He saw me take a few swings and then said something along the lines of "I can watch you bash balls for the next hour and charge you for a lesson but I already know the drill you need to work on so why don't I just show you it now free of charge."  He walked me through a drill for release and watched me hit pretty much the whole bucket.  He'd walk around and talk to some other players on the range and then come back and give me a tip or some feedback.  When I ran out of balls he gave me his key to get another bucket.  The fact that he was willing to basically give me a free lesson really impressed me.  As I was leaving, he said that once I have that drill down I will be a more than adequate ball striker and to call him for a short game lesson.  Also found out on Wednesday that he's been coaching a coworker of mine for 8 years.  The guy's handicap is a 1 or 2 and he said the pro can fix his swing whenever something starts going south.  All in all, it couldn't have gone better.

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Really glad it went well.
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Thanks for reporting back. Sounds like a great outcome - the guy knows his stuff, AND he cuts you a deal!

I like knowledge as much as the next guy, but the way the "new ballflight laws" got turned into some internet shibboleth was really regrettable IMO. Though so was the fact that there was misleading information built into the PGA training programme...

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Originally Posted by birlyshirly

I like knowledge as much as the next guy, but the way the "new ballflight laws" got turned into some internet shibboleth was really regrettable IMO. Though so was the fact that there was misleading information built into the PGA training programme...

Except that there is plenty of "misleading" information built into the PGA training program, and you're tested on some of that misleading information. I'll agree that the amount is often misstated, though, if you'll agree that it probably should have been clarified by now.

There are essentially two sides to teaching - the knowledge and the art side. The art side includes knowing when and how to dispense with knowledge, and the way in which you do so. The conversational side of teaching, the "HOW" to teaching. The knowledge side is the "what" side.

Though I agree (and applaud) your characterization of it as a shibboleth, it's more than just a passphrase into some sort of club - it's kind of fundamental to instruction. It demonstrates that an instructor is willing to learn, in the case of an older instructor, and demonstrates that a younger one has a good first step. Most instructors throw enough stuff out there that one of them may stick, and I have my doubts as to whether this "roll the forearms" trick will suffice - it tends to send the path more left, and is a "quick fix" type of instruction more often than not.

So while I agree in some ways that the ball flight laws are a bit of a shibboleth, I certainly understand where everyone who mentioned it was coming from, and I have serious doubts about someone who would literally argue about a fact - any fact, but certainly especially one related to his profession - with someone. The entire purpose of the swing is to create a certain ball flight that hits the ball pretty far and finishes at a certain point. Controlling the ball flight is fundamental to playing the game, and understanding ball flight thus becomes, IMO, fundamental to teaching the game.

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Originally Posted by iacas

Except that there is plenty of "misleading" information built into the PGA training program, and you're tested on some of that misleading information. I'll agree that the amount is often misstated, though, if you'll agree that it probably should have been clarified by now.

There are essentially two sides to teaching - the knowledge and the art side. The art side includes knowing when and how to dispense with knowledge, and the way in which you do so. The conversational side of teaching, the "HOW" to teaching. The knowledge side is the "what" side.

Though I agree (and applaud) your characterization of it as a shibboleth, it's more than just a passphrase into some sort of club - it's kind of fundamental to instruction. It demonstrates that an instructor is willing to learn, in the case of an older instructor, and demonstrates that a younger one has a good first step. Most instructors throw enough stuff out there that one of them may stick, and I have my doubts as to whether this "roll the forearms" trick will suffice - it tends to send the path more left, and is a "quick fix" type of instruction more often than not.

So while I agree in some ways that the ball flight laws are a bit of a shibboleth, I certainly understand where everyone who mentioned it was coming from, and I have serious doubts about someone who would literally argue about a fact - any fact, but certainly especially one related to his profession - with someone. The entire purpose of the swing is to create a certain ball flight that hits the ball pretty far and finishes at a certain point. Controlling the ball flight is fundamental to playing the game, and understanding ball flight thus becomes, IMO, fundamental to teaching the game.

I agree with much of what you're saying. I would hate to come across as sounding as if a professional body, its constituent members, and its training program, shouldn't be concerned with factual accuracy.

And I completely agree that fixing ballflight should be fundamental to teaching.

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but if there's a difference between us here, I imagine that it might be that you are so comfortable with the facts of impact that you can't envisage teaching ballflight any other way. Whereas, whilst it's a bit off-topic, I can envisage some ways golf could be taught effectively, even without being able to articulate the physics of impact. To give one example that seems relevant, a low-capper and one of the better ballstrikers at my club had what he describes as the lesson that made the most lasting benefits he's ever experienced - and it could be fairly characterised as a variation of the "roll the forearms" lesson, albeit with a touch of "running forehand" to counter the tendency to get the path going left.

My bigger gripe is just the tendency that I've seen in these sorts of discussion (in fairness, largely on other forums) to throw this teacher or that teacher under a bus based on their ability or otherwise to recite correctly the latest trendy facts or theory. I think the internet tends to facilitate the spread of the theory, divorced from the teaching practice, and suddenly everyone's an expert EXCEPT the frontline teacher. I'm not just picking on ballflight physics here - I've seen the same phenomenon with TGM, sports psychology, physiology, even the neuro-science of putting...[though if I had to guess, I'd say that what makes the ballflight laws debate different is the marketing $ supporting the sale of very expensive launch monitors.]

To cut a long story short, I hope I'm not seen as defending crappy teachers here. All I'm saying is that they should be judged by their results.

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in other words  "this is an open forum and everybody is entitled to his or her opinions as long as those opinions do not disagree with mine".  said with tongue-in-cheek. (not necessarily true).  I have the advantage of witnessing instructors come and go, of ideas and theories evolve and later be disproven, and yet I (and anybody for that matter) can choose what to accept or disavow based on what seems best to work for me.  One thing I know for sure is that based on impressions I get as a result of reading, I know which instructor(s) that I would not hire and not entirely based on their knowledge but more because of their technique and perceived personality.  I suppose the same could be said of me from an instructors point of view.  The caption under my avatar pretty much sums it up.

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Originally Posted by Hacker James

in other words  "this is an open forum and everybody is entitled to his or her opinions as long as those opinions do not disagree with mine".  ...

That's not remotely what I thought I'd been saying. People can think, and say, what they like about the golf swing without worrying about getting into a heated debate with me.

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Originally Posted by birlyshirly

That's not remotely what I thought I'd been saying. People can think, and say, what they like about the golf swing without worrying about getting into a heated debate with me.

ha ha..wasn 't even referring to any sort of heated debate,but to the exchanges in general. In a way, I was agreeing with some of what you were saying about not defending crappy instructors.  One of my points was instruction is not based solely on knowledge but on how you relate to people or how you come across to people. I might respect an instructor for his/her knowledge but not always be in agreement with it. As you said, results are what counts. If that particular instructor gave you something of value and useful to you, he did his job.

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