There are a lot of golf instructors out there. Many of them are qualified, intelligent instructors with the best of intentions. They want to help you, they want to see you improve, and they enjoy doing it.
Unfortunately, intentions don't always translate into ability, and there are a good number of instructors out there who may not be helping their students as much as they'd like.
Over the last few years I have become increasingly frustrated with feedback I have received from students who have taken lessons from seemingly "qualified" instructors. In this era of the Internet and YouTube, I have also had the chance to view a large number of videos and read many instructional articles online and, again, it seems that much of the information is misleading at best. Because of this I took the time to devise a short nine-question "test" for golf instructors.
I would like to point out upfront that I, and all the instructors at my academy, teach based on the 5 Simple Keys®… but all of the questions and answers are the same for any efficient method of swinging the golf club.
Question One: What gives the ball its initial direction: clubface angle or path?
Answer: Clubface angle is the primary determinant for starting direction, upwards of 85 to 90%. Data from Doppler radar-based launch monitors such as Trackman and Flightscope has confirmed this. A surprising number of pros will tell you that the swing path determines the starting line, but as is often the case in golf instruction, what the pros tell you and what they actually do in reality are two very different things.
Question Two: If a golfer wants to hit the biggest draw - would he move the weight the furthest forward or the furthest back?
Answer: Forward… at impact. Players whose weight is the furthest back are the biggest slicers of the ball. This simply has to do with the arc of the swing (picture a semi-circle transcribed on the ground). Players who hit draws hit the ball on the "back" side of the circle when the club is still swinging outward and downward to the golf ball. Players who hit slices generally hit the ball while the club is moving more out to in. Moving the weight forward effectively moves the ball position "back" on the circle.
Question Three: Does the spine's actual angle taken at address (the bend or flexion from the hips) stay that way throughout the backswing? Or does the spine's angle "change" as the hips come out of their anterior tilt?
Answer: The spine's flex is definitely changing as the hips come out of their address, anterior tilt. It is also bending to the left at the same time the extension is happening, as caused by the right and left knee changing flex and the hips releasing from the address tilt (to most golfers this feels like they are stretching their entire trail side upward). This is how the golfer stays in their inclination to the ground.
If you've ever been told to "maintain your spine angle" then your instructor is committing perhaps the most serious sin in golf instruction. Nobody on the PGA Tour truly "maintains their spine angle."…it is definitely changing in order to keep the head steady.
Question Four: The correct hand path is more a) circular or b) straight back and then down the target line in order to keep the clubhead online longer?
Answer: a) circular. Golf is not croquet - we play to the side of the ball on a tilted angle. The circular arc is a byproduct of that. Moving the hands in too much of a linear manner is the slowest way to swing the club and predisposes the golfer to lifting the arms an excessive amount.
Question Five: Which of these are true commonalities of all the game's greatest players: a) grip b) posture c) weight forward at impact d) a flat left wrist (right handed player) at impact?
Answer: C and D - having the weight forward and a flat left wrist at impact. The game's greatest players have played with grips and postures completely across the board, from strong to weak and hunched to erect, but they all are able to arrive at impact with the weight predominantly forward and the lead wrist "flat."
It is also worth noting that many average or poor players have better grips and setups than some touring professionals. If the instructor you are considering is spending too much time focusing on things that are not common to the greatest players of all time he/she may be doing you a disservice.
Question Six: To square the clubface at impact a golfer should a) feel a conscious release of the club through a rolling and rotation of the wrists and forearms b) feel passive wrists and forearms to hold the club square to the arc the club is swinging on?
Answer: b) feel passive wrists and forearms to hold the club square to the arc - a conscious release is something that, in itself, tips the club shaft out and over the top causing the golfer to hit too much out to in or across the ball.
Question Seven: During the backswing the right handed golfer's right knee should lessen its flex (not lock but definitely decrease flex) to allow the hips to turn completely and on a tilted angle? True or false?
Answer: True. If the golfer's right knee stays flexed the hips cannot turn to the proper extent and they do not maintain their tilted angle. It is at this point that the arms lift excessively and the beginnings of an over-the-top motion are in place.
Question Eight: The center of the golfer's hips must be in front of the golf ball (assuming a baseline ball position) at impact. True or false?
Answer: True. Don't take my word for it. Simply watch video of the game's greatest players.
Question Nine: Do you make use of video? Yes or No?
Answer: Yes! Don't buy into the fact that an instructor "has a great eye." Video is a must! Anyone relying on their eye when humanity has invented something better than "your eye" - high speed video - is wasting your time and money.
So there you have it. How did you do? More importantly, how did your instructor do?
This article was written by Dave Wedzik, owner and director of golf instruction at Golf Evolution in Erie, PA. If you'd like to contribute, send us an email.