My guess is most of you on this site are like me. I love golf, playing, watching, and reading about it. I am constantly perusing this site, other sites, youtube, and reading books to improve at this crazy game. I don’t have an instructor in my town, and probably wouldn’t have the funds or time to see one on a regular basis anyway. I know in a perfect world, one without kids, jobs, etc., that consistent lessons are the best way to probably get better. I have been playing for 20 years or so, and my wife for 3. Going to post some stuff that will hopefully help someone out along the way.
First of all, by all means, when you first start playing, try to get some lessons from a Professional to get your fundamentals right if you can. I didn’t do that when I started and it took a lot of time, painful playing, and hard work to get them right. My wife, on the other hand, had some instruction and developed much quicker than me because of it. Just getting the grip, stance, etc. right from the beginning can be hard. That’s not even factoring in all the other crap you have to learn like putting, chipping, pitching, rules, etiquette, etc. What took me 5+ years to get a good grasp on, my wife learned and got a good understanding of in her first year.
Secondly, I want to say up front that I am not advocating any swing technique, book, or training aid for anyone. I am just telling you what worked for me. It may not work for you at all. Golfers all learn differently. One person can explain something one way and you get it. Another person can explain the same thing a different way, and you can be lost. The feeling one person gets when learning a skill may not be the same feeling that works on another person.
I am going to go ahead and list some of the books, training aids, and Instructors I have read, listened to, used, or watched in person or on youtube. All of them helped my game in some way and continue too. The evolution of the Internet played a big part in my game getting better. It’s a huge resource for people just starting out in the game today. By the way, I am at my lowest hdcp ever (4) at age 48! I will explain along the way what each did for me.
Books- Not including 20+ years of Golf Digest and Golf Magazine.
Golf My Way by Jack Nicklaus
Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan
First two golf books I ever read. Both of them are Classics. At the time I read them, about 17 + years ago, I was just trying to get the fundamentals down so I was probably too new to the game to get the full benefits of the books. However I would greatly recommend them to help get your fundamentals down. I probably should reread them both myself!
Basically that’s is all I used when I started out in the game and up until about age 40. My older brother was a very good player and he taught me a few things along the way. I also figured out that playing with better players helped me improve, but also got in my wallet! During those 12 years I got my grip down pretty good, went from a weak slice to a draw or hook by changing my swing path, and became a pretty good putter. Putting was the one thing I did well early on. I had to adopt a reverse loop type swing to get the swing path right, but it worked for the most part. Still struggled with pitching, and fat shots. I started out like a lot of us shooting around in the mid 90’s to 100’s for the first ten years or so. At age 35, when I changed my swing path from over the top to inside out, I was a mid 80’s shooter, but could throw a round in the high 70’s if I had a good day around the greens.
In my early forties or about five or six years ago, as my children got older, I started playing a little more often. I also started getting more interested in instructional books. Two short game books in particular.
The Short Game Bible by Dave Pelz
The Art of the Short Game by Stan Utley
Both of these books were instrumental in changing my thinking about the short game. Pelz got me to pay particular attention to my wedge yardages and caused me to add a gap wedge and lob wedge to my set. His book is probably more for the analytical type player. Utley helped me more with my short game swing, and his book is probably more for the feel type player. I was still hitting some bad shots around the green, but not as many. Two great reads!
Greg Norman’s Secret was also the first training aid I used. It worked great to help me keep from flipping my wrist at impact on chips and pitches.
At that point I was shooting anywhere from mid 80’ s to mid 70’s with a rare 72 or 73. I was wildly inconsistent from week to week. I didn’t make a lot of birdies, but could make a lot of pars by getting up and down, with the occasional birdie on short par fives. I was still using the reverse loop Furyk type full swing that was generally the cause of my inconsistency. If my timing was a little off, I could shoot some high scores. The ironic thing was I actually won my Club Championship by shooting 75-70 in 2008. That 70 was the lowest round of the year for me, with a 32 on the back nine, picked a great time to do it!
You would think that would have been a watershed moment for my golf game and me. However, I couldn’t shoot better than a 76 the rest of the season and I started to get very frustrated. I would shoot a 34 and follow it up with a 44. That kind of stuff. I shot just as many 42’s as I did 37’s. The fact that I had won the Club Championship had just made things worse really. My expectations for myself had gotten too high, and other people’s expectations of my game went through the roof. This just added extra pressure ever time I teed it up. Soon the joke was on me, and it was just known as a big “fluke” that I won. I was almost at the point of quitting all together.
The following year, 2009, I decided I needed to fix my full swing somehow. I researched the Internet and stumbled across a variety of swing methods. I started to get into the mental game also. I also watched a ton of the Golf Channel and it’s instructional shows.
Every Shot Must Have a Purpose by Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott
The One and Two Plane Swing by Jim Hardy
The Picture Perfect Golf Swing by Michael Breed
Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect by Bob Rotella
Jim Hardy’s book taught me a lot about the golf swing in general. It showed me that I was a two plane swinger who wanted to be a one plane swinger. This is also about the time I started looking at video of my swing, wow what an eye opener. This is when the first big light bulb came on for me. “ What you feel like your doing, is not always actually what you are doing in your swing. “ Breed’s teaching and Hardy’s book also started my fixation with the proper swing plane. The other two are great reads on the mental side of the game. Helped me keep in the moment a lot better and play one shot at a time and not worry about score as much. Just add them up at the end of the round.
My game didn’t really improve much at all that year. I went from trying to stay on plane with a one plane swing to reverting back to the reverse loop swing when I wasn’t hitting it good. By mid summer I was just not playing much. My wife even tried to get me out there by showing an interest in the game herself. I introduced her to the game in late summer, and in hindsight it was the best thing I ever did. The first time I took her out, she struggled even making contact with the ball. She was shifting her weight way back on the back swing and not getting it forward at all on the downswing. Just like she swung a softball bat when she was a kid. Her head was moving all over the place, down and back on the backswing and up on the downswing. So to keep her from moving all over I had her place most her weight on her left leg and take a few swings keeping the weight there. I had recalled reading about some drill or something like that on the Internet. Wow, what a difference that made. That solved the back and forth head movement right there and she could actually make contact with the ball. I then held a shaft above her head when she would swing to keep her from moving up and down. Before long she was making decent contact most of the time. We didn’t get much further with the few times we went out the rest of the year, but I kept on researching the internet for tips. One day I stumbled upon a swing method that was being called the “Stack and Tilt”. I thought it sounded familiar, and read about it. It was very similar to the drill I was using to teach my wife how to swing. I read up on it a little, and went out one warm winter day in the yard to try it. Bam, I had my next breakthrough moment. So that is what compressing a golf ball feels like. I think I was using a six iron at the time. I loved that feeling and the ball was just rocketing off the clubface. Something as simple as moving the ball back in my stance and keeping most my weight on the left side had made a HUGE difference.
Needless to say I spent the rest of the winter searching for as much information I could get on the “Stack and Tilt” swing. I was like a Coon in a garbage can. I ordered the book first:
The Stack and Tilt Swing by Michael Bennett and Andy Plummer
A must have book! Taught me how to compress the golf ball, something I never knew how to do up to this point. The correct way to hit irons! The main reason I could not hit the ball well off of tight fairway lies.
I also searched the Internet for help and found two great Instructors that had some great videos.
Both the guys had some fantastic drills showing the techniques. They were invaluable in my learning process. Dave, and The Golf Evolution had a big impact on golf in my life, as you will read.
When spring hit I went to the course as often as possible and liked what I saw and felt. I was still hitting some fat shots, but hitting a lot of really nice compressed iron shots that were little draws. I was using the book and instruction videos to help my wife also. Finally in July 2010 we decided to make the trip to Pennsylvania to see Dave Wedzick at his Golf Evolution shop. My wife and I spent two wonderful days getting personalized instruction from Dave and James Hirshfield. I can’t say enough good things about how they treated us. It was an 18 hour trip one way, but well worth it. My biggest problem was my swing plane as usual. Dave tried to give me feelings to work on to help me fix it. They were really impressed with my wife’s swing for someone who been playing less that a year. She soaked up the instruction like a sponge. By seeing an Instructor in her first year, she was able to make changes very quickly. By waiting 18 years, I had trouble getting out of my bad habits. Dave has since moved away from the “Stack and Tilt “ slogan with the Golf Evolution and is teaching the “Purestrike Five Simple Keys”. Pretty much still teaching the same stuff, but focusing on the five keys that all swings must have to be good.
Since that trip my wife has stuck with what she learned. She has gotten better and better very quickly and shot her low round of 82 just last week. Her ball striking, especially driving is very good. She just needs to keep working on the short game to break into the magic 70’s. Unbelievable for someone that has only been playing for three years. She is proof that having a centered pivot is can make you a consistent ball striker. The early instruction she got also made her swing develop on plane from the beginning.
It’s been a different story for me. I still struggled with swing plane and “feelings” when I got back home. I could hit my irons well, but struggled with my woods. I got the shanks a few times. My divots started to get deeper and deeper also. I stuck with it until last summer. But every time I would think I was getting it, I really discovered my swing was just reverting back to some of its old habits. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot, and am a better player for trying it. I was shooting in mid to high 70’s most to the time. The biggest thing is not moving my head around and having a centered turn on my back swing. That has stuck with me and made me a more consistent ball striker. I also have not been doing the reverse loop swing like a used too. My swing crosses the line at the top, but most to the time I get it back on plane coming back down. I am sure if I had regular instruction from Dave I would have fixed my problems and be playing even better. But that was not going to be possible, even with the evolver online program he had set up. I ordered a few new books last summer that I thought were great reads.
The Four Magic Moves by Joe Dante
On Learning Golf by Percy Boomer
Build the Swing of a Lifetime by Mike Bender
The first two are older books that had some great information in them. Because they explain similar fundamentals, but in different ways it gives the reader a better chance to get that right “feeling” when learning them. It amazes me that this information was available so long ago. Dante talking about how your wrist should move on the backswing was a light bulb moment for me, and helped me not get off plane near as much. Bender’s book has some great drills in it.
Up until about four months ago I had stayed pretty study, but was not improving. Strange, because with my wife’s improvement, we were playing more than we ever have. I even started struggling with my pitch and chip shots again by not making good contact. Kind of like having the chip yips. I adopted the Dave Stockton method on chip shots around the green and liked it. You just move a little closer to the ball and make a putting stroke. I needed it to make good contact chipping. My pitching was still not getting any better. I was starting to get down on my game when the Internet saved me again.
Three Instructors, one book, and a Slogan have had a huge impact on my game in the last four months. In those four months my hdcp has dropped from a 7 to a 4. I have shot some of the most consistent golf in my life, and my ball striking in the last month has been the best it’s ever been. My last four rounds have been 73, 74, 71, 72!
Erik J. Barzeski – A 5SK Instructor that runs the Sand Trap web site.
The Impact Zone by Bobby Clampett
Geoff Jones – Instructor also known as Slicefixer, author of “Encyclopedia Texarkana”
Paul Wilson – Instructor, author of the book Swing Machine Golf. Also has Ignition Golf web site.
Slogan- “SWING YOUR OWN SWING!”
As I said, I had been struggling with my pitch shots. I was chunking them for the most part. I found a video on the Sand Trap of Eric showing a simple pitching method and at first I didn’t get it. It wasn’t until I found a second video of Eric and Dave Wedzik explaining the lag in the pitching swing and showing it, that the light bulb came on. LAG, LAG, LAG! That is going the over riding theme to my improvement in the last four months. You have to have lag to make good contact, period. The reason I was chunking my pitch shots was because I was losing my lag, or flipping wrist through impact. I broke out my old “Greg Norman’s Secret” training aid, and used Eric’s method, presto! No more flipping wrist or chunking. But when I took off the training aid, I would start to flip again. I needed some sort of feeling to stop doing it. Loose wrist was the feeling I needed. Feels like club head is still moving backwards when I start moving arms forward. The key is to make sure your “turn” back through is the momentum that’s causing the arms to come forward, not the arms pulling. If you don’t turn your hips, you will lose your lag trying to “hit” with your arms. Enough on the swing jargon, I can answer questions on it later.
Anyway, I started hitting my pitch shots solid again. This got me thinking about my full swing. I checked out some video of myself and I was also losing my lag in the full swing, commonly called “casting”. I stumbled onto a “9 to 3 “ swing thread on the website Golfwrx that an Instructor named Slicefixer, Geoff Jones, had started. It explained a lot about lag in the swing and how to hold it though impact. He has some videos out and wrote an eBook called “Encyclopedia Texarkana” that has some great insights. Once again, lag is the key!
One of the most common themes I hear about the full swing is “being on plane”. However, when I watch a lot of professional golfers I see many who are not on plane and they hit the ball great. Inbee Park comes to mind right of the top of my head. After reading Bobby Clampett’s book I decided to stop searching for that perfect swing plane. The moment of impact is the key to good golf. Being on plane at the top is not absolutely necessary. It makes coming into impact on plane easier for sure. But you can still come into impact on plane without being on plane at the top. Many good players do just that by a small rerouting of the golf club on the way down. I think my fixation with a perfect swing plane was a detriment in the long run. As Arnold Palmer says, “Swing your swing!”
When I started pitching better I immediately thought the same concept should work in the full swing. That’s when I stumbled on some video from Instructor Paul Wilson. I’m sure I saw it before, but it just didn’t register with me. He advocates loose wrist on the full swing and initiating the downswing with the hips turning first. I went and tried to hit some shots that way and was amazed how I was able to keep the lag in my wrist so much better. The by-product of this was what really amazed me, no fat shots. In the last month I have been working on Paul’s swing technique. Just ordered his book yesterday, and joined his website. I can honestly say I have never hit the ball so solidly in my life. My scores reflect that. I have went from hitting 8 or 9 greens in regulation to 11 + greens in regulation per round. I rarely hit a fat shot, I will hit more thin than fat. The feeling of swinging the club through the ball and not hitting the club into the back of the ball is key. I still have a lot of what I learned from Golf Evolution in my swing, but just added some of Paul’s stuff. A lot of the stuff I do is in the Purestrike Five Simple Keys range.
Right now that is where I am at with my golf game. I am excited again to play. My wife is sticking with her stack and tilt swing and playing well also. Hope this story helps some of you and I would be happy to answer any specific questions about the books, swing techniques, etc. from my perspective if someone has some. Sorry for such a long read!