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AMA Thread (@iacas)

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Hi Erik,

Can you share some of your home life?  How long have you been married, how did you meet your wife, number of kids?  I would be curious to know if your wife golfs and what she thinks about your various endeavors and if she was instrumental in any of them?

Brad

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24 minutes ago, bmartin461 said:

Can you share some of your home life?  How long have you been married, how did you meet your wife, number of kids?  I would be curious to know if your wife golfs and what she thinks about your various endeavors and if she was instrumental in any of them?

Briefly, sure.

My daughter is @NatalieB. She's technically my step-daughter, but I've known her since she was barely 1, and she's almost never at her BioDad's house nor has she ever been there much. @NatalieB has her own Member Swing thread, as you probably know. We decided very early on that as children of very stable marriages we'd rather just spoil the one and not introduce a "half sibling" into the family. I've never viewed her as anything but my own child, though some people wonder why she still just calls me "Erik." :-) (Because she's always known me as "Erik," and because her BioDad is super-sensitive to that sort of thing, despite being a pretty lousy human being, and because a title was not worth the battle, and because she knows what I am to her regardless of what she calls me.)

My wife is my unreciprocated high school crush (we were best friends, so it wasn't completely unrequited), and she teaches seventh grade math. She's a rock star at her job - she's won a Golden Apple, she's liked by students, parents, and her co-workers, and she does a great job despite cheating off me in high school in all of the math and science classes she could… :-)

I was living in Florida, had just started The Sand Trap, and had just left Apple when she emailed me out of the blue via my software company's website (Freshly Squeezed Software). She had just moved back in with her parents and was getting a divorce from her husband, and we started talking again. That was in April. April 15, actually. In October I moved from Delray Beach, FL back to Erie. The next May we took our wedding photos, got married, and closed on a house. On the same day. Our abbreviated honeymoon was to visit my sister in Latrobe, PA and to attend three days of the Senior PGA Championship at Laurel Valley CC.

Most days the two of them go off to school (together) and I will get up a bit later. I am perfectly capable of rising at 5am, or earlier, but often work until later at night after they've gone to bed. I work here in my home office or venture to CHQ or GE to get work done with students.

We eat out way too much, but I can't cook, and my wife shouldn't have to all that often. I watch entirely too much TV, my wife is right about that, but most every show I watch is background noise while I do other work at night. When your wife goes to bed at 9pm, and you're not going to be tired until 1 or 2am… it's a good time to get some work done, like replying here on the forum.

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Let's talk about your game. Parts of the question:

SWOT analysis of the state of your game.

Do you have a feeling for your absolute ceiling? To simplify, how many strokes off your err, GG HCP you think you might max out.

How often do you (still) discover something new about your swing pic? Examples please.

Do you think you have untapped distance potential at this point of game and well, age?

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4 hours ago, GolfLug said:

Let's talk about your game. Parts of the question:

SWOT analysis of the state of your game.

I hate SWOT analyses. And O and T don't really apply to playing golf. :-)

My Strengths are that I advance the ball, keep it generally between the ropes, rack up a lot of nGIRs, and putt pretty well despite never really practicing my putting at all. Ditto the short game.

Weaknesses… I don't play enough. And given that, I often am working on my game more than I would/should if I was actually always playing for a score.

4 hours ago, GolfLug said:

Do you have a feeling for your absolute ceiling? To simplify, how many strokes off your err, GG HCP you think you might max out.

Another stroke or two, tops, given how much I play golf. And by tops I mean, full stop, draw a hard line with permanent marker, tops.

If someone wants to give me $2M so I can retire and just live off the interest, add another stroke.

4 hours ago, GolfLug said:

How often do you (still) discover something new about your swing pic? Examples please.

I don't. I've been working on and gradually improving the same thing for the past four or five years. I should show you some of my earlier swings from a while ago… woof. But I won't. So don't ask. :-)

4 hours ago, GolfLug said:

Do you think you have untapped distance potential at this point of game and well, age?

Very little. I've always hit the ball pretty far. Bottom of the top quartile or thereabouts. Maybe bottom of the top quintile.

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Question I have been wanting to ask for awhile.... I used to think that touring pros were like the golf gods and knew everything. But since being on TST, it appears that touring pros are more about playing and their personal feel. And teaching pros like yourself are more knowledgeable about the mechanics of the game....  But don't all pros go through the same certification and qualification methods? Why is there a difference? Did you ever want to get on the pro tour circuit?

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5 minutes ago, Dave325 said:

Question I have been wanting to ask for awhile.... I used to think that touring pros were like the golf gods and knew everything. But since being on TST, it appears that touring pros are more about playing and their personal feel. And teaching pros like yourself are more knowledgeable about the mechanics of the game....  But don't all pros go through the same certification and qualification methods? Why is there a difference? Did you ever want to get on the pro tour circuit?

I'll start with the last one… no.

I didn't play golf until I was 14. I played varsity soccer as a freshman, then took up the sport the next summer, and made the golf team that fall. We won three ECL championships in a row (and the two the two years after I graduated), and I won the EDGA Junior Stroke play series the summer before my senior year when I also went to States and was All-County.

Then I went to a Division III college where the football coach was the golf coach, made the team, and declined because he kept upper classmen that shot in the 80s and 90s over another freshman I played with who shot 76/77. I figured he didn't care about winning, just making his job easier. I've never wanted to be a Tour pro.

All pros do not go through the same certifications. Technically, to be a professional golf instructor, you simply need to declare yourself a professional golf instructor. Or accept money for a lesson.

The PGA purports to "train" golf instructors but as someone on "Level II" of the three levels, uhhhhh, I haven't learned jack squat. What information they've given about teaching golf has been bad at the best. I'm the Director of Instructor Development for 5 Simple Keys®, so a lot of the instructors we've taught have gotten more out of our $195 online course than they'll ever get from the PGA.

But no, there are no requirements to be a golf instructor, no standardization, etc. That's part of the reason golf instruction is so lousy.

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1 hour ago, David in FL said:

Pepsi or Coke?

You don't know me at all!

Coke. I haven't had a Pepsi (or any Pepsi variants, like Cherry, Vanilla, Diet, whatever) in… 15 years. I last had a Pepsi in 1999.

These days it's Cherry Coke Zero, or just a plain Coke Zero if necessary.

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In reading the reviews for clubs and such back when you wrote them, they are all really good. Where did you learn to write this well? 

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9 hours ago, mchepp said:

In reading the reviews for clubs and such back when you wrote them, they are all really good. Where did you learn to write this well? 

Well, what's funny is how much I write in my day-to-day jobs. I joked and told my English teacher my senior year that I was going into the sciences, so I wouldn't have to write all that much - just an occasional scientific paper or something. Little did I know…

I read a lot of books as a kid. I wasn't a speed reader, but I never just sat around and didn't watch much TV. If they added a 25th hour every day right now and I was told I wasn't allowed to work or use it to spend extra time with my family (they'd be asleep anyway, ha ha) I'd spend it reading. I still love reading, I just don't have the time for it much these days.

I think that's where it comes from, primarily. I'm a smart guy too, so that helps - I notice things, I know how to spell, grammar has never been terribly difficult… that sort of thing. On the forum, as demonstrated by that last sentence, I don't worry so much about super-proper grammar; I worry more about simply being understood or getting my point across.

I hope that answers your question. And, thanks.

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Are you happy with the new site or do you miss the old one? I realise that those are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

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20 minutes ago, Ernest Jones said:

Are you happy with the new site or do you miss the old one? I realise that those are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

I'm thrilled. We didn't lose much functionality (I need to clean up the home page and turn it into something that looks a lot better), and we're already gaining back some of the things we did lose. But the new site lets me do quite a bit more, and control it. Huddler was a good idea that never ended up working out in reality.

I love that the site is responsive now and doesn't require the use of an entirely separate "mobile" site. I love that we can process Supporter Memberships. I love that I can control every setting possible, and don't have to involve someone else and wait for them to do something before I can do something else. It'll free up quite a lot of time and let us do more.

The only thing I don't like, that frustrates me still, is that I can't hit cmd-enter to post. I have to click the "Submit Reply" button. But, I have my paging keys back, which Huddler NEVER implemented… and that more than makes up for it. But if I could have both… ;-)

 

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You train people but I assume most of them are already instructors looking to get better.-Do you train PGM students or other people who are not instructors yet, and-What advice would you give to someone looking to get into golf instruction?

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On January 8, 2016 at 4:58 PM, Phil McGleno said:

You train people but I assume most of them are already instructors looking to get better.-Do you train PGM students or other people who are not instructors yet, and-What advice would you give to someone looking to get into golf instruction?

Yes, we train some, and are looking to do more, or at least introduce more PGM type students (or "current non-instructors considering such") to 5SK®/LSW®. The downside is that a lot of future golf pros are still looking to be head pros, and very few consider going into instruction.

But the last part of your question is a good one. Off the top of my head (and thus in no order whatsoever)…

Learn from a Lot of People
Even if it's learning what not to do, learn from a lot of people. If you learn from only one person, you're quite likely only going to teach that way. If there's a successful but in your opinion crappy teacher in your area, go watch him and see why students keep coming back to him even if their scores don't improve. You may find that golfers are just stupid, or the guy has a great personality, or that he's really inexpensive, or that he's actually decent… either way, if you pay attention, you'll learn something. And, many great instructors are happy to let you observe, particularly if you travel a bit to watch them. Just ask.

Don't Chase Certifications
I say this as someone offering a certification, too. Don't just try to get them like you would merit badges. Weigh the value of what you can be expected to learn from each, and don't consider the "marketing value" of having 50 merit badges. Nobody really cares. Obtain the certifications that you think will help you become a better instructor, not those that you think will help you look like a better instructor.

Make Use of Technology, But Keep it in Its Place
We still use a high-speed video camera (it's like super-human vision is how I describe it), because it results in changes that students can see (and, with an iPhone, create themselves). A student practicing on a GEARS, for example, sure you get a lot of data about them, but they can't take the GEARS with them to produce the same numbers. Ditto force plates, etc. Yes, even a FlightScope has that problem, except at least with FlightScope you can begin to relate the ball flight (which you always get) with the numbers, so you still get to take that with you.

A lot of newer instructors seem to act like tech replaces knowledge. Don't fall into that trap.

Plus, most technology is hard to justify from an ROI perspective. Don't fall into massive debt just as you're getting started in golf instruction.

I value technology and tools and "toys" quite a bit, but it has its place, and often doesn't help you with the bogey golfer just wanting to stop hitting the ball fat

Develop Your Own Game
You don't have to be a +2 to teach, but you should be able to break 80 pretty easily, and you should be able to demonstrate the drills you'll ask your students to do. If you want someone to do a drill that produces big hooks, for example, you'd better be able to produce a big hook when you do the drill. If you can't, you'll eventually be found out, and that's a crack in the wall of student confidence.

Develop the Three Keys of Teaching
Great teachers all have some things in common. In my opinion, they are:

  • Good communicators.
  • Good knowledge.
  • Good prioritizers.

Some other coaches are great in certain situations - teaching women or children, for example ("Good patience" might apply to the latter, for example). Others are good at motivating. But at the core you have to be at least reasonably good at those three things.

Take Your Time
There's an old joke in instruction that a lesson takes five minutes… the other 55 minutes is justifying the cost to the student. It's funny because it's true: within the first five minutes, I pretty much know what and how we're going to work on things that day with that student. But sometimes that's ten minutes, or fifteen, and I'm not afraid to take my time. I ask questions. I watch them hit balls. I talk with them about what they're perceiving, and then, even if I've still got a pretty good idea, I'll often say something like "you keep hitting some balls if you want, or grab your water, and I'll import these videos." The two or three minutes here are crucial - I take them to look at the videos of the student's swings in high-speed video and to truly formulate a plan.

New instructors seem to think that if they don't immediately have the answer and know what to do, they're wrong. The golf swing has a lot of moving parts, and can be somewhat complex, so give yourself a minute or two to fully grasp what it is you're dealing with each and every time.

You'd rather take three minutes to be right than to rush to get an answer and not give the best lesson. Your student would rather you take your time and get it right, too.

Offer a Shot Glass
I like to tell other instructors that if my knowledge base is an ocean, I'm best serving my students when they get about a shot's worth in any one lesson. Early on the temptation to show off how knowledgeable you are will be overwhelming for many; resist the urge to brain dump on each of your students. In fact, it's almost inversely proportional: so long as you offer some knowledge, the less you offer, the better the lesson is perceived by the students and the better the results you get.

Give them Something to Practice
Give students "take-home" material. For me, that's usually a set of photos with notes on them from Analyzr. For some other students, I sometimes record myself talking and demonstrating while they record on their iPhone. Other people send their students video recaps of their lessons.

All of my students leave with an idea of HOW to practice. Make sure yours do too. Golfers, by and large, generally don't like to practice, so don't give them the excuse of also not knowing HOW to do it.


I'm sure there are other things I could say, but I'll stop there, as this has already taken a few minutes here and there across several days.

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When I first joined the site you were very pro Stack and Tilt and seemed to incorporate a lot of Mike and Andy's views into this site and golf swing advice.  You've since moved on from S&T, what is your opinion of S&T today (including Mike and Andy)?

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1 hour ago, newtogolf said:

When I first joined the site you were very pro Stack and Tilt and seemed to incorporate a lot of Mike and Andy's views into this site and golf swing advice.  You've since moved on from S&T, what is your opinion of S&T today (including Mike and Andy)?

I think that your perception is off base a little. I don't think we were anywhere near as gung-ho about it as people seem to think we were. But, in saying that, I'm now guessing somewhat at exactly how much you think we were "very pro" something. So whatever, yes, we were "pro" S&T to some degree in 2010.

I was on-board with S&T early on because, like @david_wedzik, I thought it was something other than what it turned out to be. Long story short, I/we thought that they were the first people to somewhat accurately describe how to maintain a relatively centered pivot during the backswing.

Dave thought S&T was similar to what Mike Bennett had learned from Mike Bender, with whom Dave had worked for a number of years (and where he became acquaintances/friends with both Mikes). For me, working with Dave and S&T also served to show me that there could be an order to things, an actual cause/effect relationship. Prior to that, my impression of "golf instruction" was that people basically threw a bunch of stuff out to see what stuck. The idea that there were cause/effect and science and geometry at play appealed to me.

In 2009, I took lessons from Dave, and by the fall of that year, decided I wanted to be an instructor. I liked that he, using his version of S&T, had a cause/effect for everything, and some geometry, etc. I watched the S&T DVDs, and when I wasn't bored, liked the information. The book came out later that year and I reviewed it favorably, for the same reasons as I liked working with Dave: cause/effect, geometry, yada yada.

In February, 2010 I'd accompanied Dave and Steve Sieracki to a clinic Andy and Mike put on in Phoenix. Actually, Dave did all of the work (and without getting into details, was stiffed in doing so, too), but Mike and Andy were there and taught a group of students. I photographed the event and observed and helped teach. I mostly watched Dave teach, and felt he was the best instructor there. I told him as much on the flight(s) home.

Thus began the eventual and somewhat rapid crumbling of S&T in my opinion. (I mean my opinion of S&T quickly crumbled… not that "S&T" as an institution crumbled quickly.)

In May of 2010, @james_hirshfield arrived, and within days of his arrival, I announced to Dave and James on the range that I thought Mike and Andy had the whole "spine tilting and extending" stuff wrong. I demonstrated how I thought the hips contributed the bulk of the "tilt" and "extend" part that was so central to S&T. I convinced Dave and James that I was right - that the spine changed very little during a centered pivot backswing, and we became better teachers from that point forward.

Shortly after James arrived, we also visited Boston (hi @boogielicious) and I remember that James and I got into a bit of an argument about the location of weight during the backswing. James, it turns out, wasn't arguing what he thought, simply what Mike and Andy said in the DVDs. The original ones, not the "2.0" dreck.

It turned out that I was right and they were wrong about that, too.

In mid-2011, Bob Koch tasked us with coming up with what ultimately became 5 Simple Keys®. Among those, we had "Weight Forward" of course, which for us was always about impact, as I'd furthered my research by buying two bathroom scales and "measuring" weight and pressure and that sort of thing through the remainder of 2011… we knew that the weight and pressure (moreso the latter) shifted right in the backswing. And we knew why, too. In January, 2012, we tested out the Swing Catalyst with Dave at the PGA Show, shot the footage you saw on the 5SK DVDs (the bulk of the rest of the DVD was shot late the prior August, 2011), and bought one, too. The following January (2013), after the 5SK® DVD release in July, we had Grant Waite take some swings on the SwIngCatalyst. We knew very, very well by then what we'd see.

Along the way there were other little things, too. We tried, often on The Facebook, to point out some things on which we felt they needed to "update" their understanding. We were often shouted down or patronized with a wag of the finger and a "be careful…" statement. For example, the science of hitting up or down with the driver. That alone caused several fights, despite being a fact… Other little things along the way caused some other fights, too. They'd show pictures of a golfer bent way over the right leg and say that it was because he hadn't left tilted enough… stuff like that. Stuff that was clearly wrong but which they wouldn't admit to, and were still teaching people.

Even @JetFan1983 can attest to the stupidity of these early and middle years. He played an entire pro-am with (I think) Steve (maybe Mike?), and his head was moving down and forward six inches or more in the backswing, and yet the advice he got was to get more weight forward to cure the fat and thin shots that plagued his game at the time. Just ridiculous stuff.

Even with all that going on, I remained "friendly" with Mike and Andy through at least the end of 2012. I gave Mike Bennett a lesson and caddied for him at Green Oaks CC for a Web.com Tour Monday qualifier earlier that summer. In January, we taught our first 5SK® class. Andy did not handle it well, nor did they handle the PGA Show that preceded it by a few days very well.

We officially "left" S&T around that time… 

Actually, reading through that thread there, it's kind of funny. Dated February 2013, even @mchepp said something like "I thought you'd moved on years ago, at least 2 or 3." :-) And it matches up pretty well with what I wrote up above there, so that's good, and tells me I'm remembering things pretty accurately.


Where do we stand now?

I've told a few people that no other people have been more responsible for kind of tearing up some of the S&T "stuff" than Dave and I. That was true almost right from the start - within months of attending their February school, we'd started moving away from what came from the top: Mike and Andy. Never mind that calling yourself "S&T" cost you business… the "science" didn't survive a close inspection at all.

We picked at their "data" on weight and pressure.

We talked amongst ourselves at the stupidity of what can be seen on the public S&T group on The Facebook. Stuff like this:

And nonsense like this (which still remains today):

The long and short of it is this:

  • I was wrong about what S&T was very early on, but it at least taught me that there is cause/effect, science, geometry, biomechanics, etc. in the golf swing.
  • We separated ourselves from S&T very early, even if formally it took two or three years.
  • Mike and Andy… refuse to grow. They're not "Explorers" as I wrote in the one post up above.
  • I largely ignore and don't think about S&T today. There's little to be gained in doing so, and the lack of "exploration" remains evident every time I happen upon anything.

There were a lot of little instances that were personally very disappointing pre-2013. Moments when they had a chance to grow their knowledge, engage in a discussion, etc. Though again I still give Mike and Andy credit for opening my eyes to the fact that golf instruction didn't have to be about throwing a bunch of stuff out there to see what stuck, that is the only thing that's lasted. I moved forward; they have not.

And that's just the golf instruction side of things. The personal side of things is even worse. :-P @mvmac can attest to that. But we won't, so don't ask.

P.S. Joe, c'mon, your comment is right there on the second page. You already knew all about this stuff!

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Hypothetical golf situation question... You are having a great round and come to the final hole, a par 4 straightaway with no hazards. You make a great drive and your ball lands about 50 yards from the green, with a perfect lie in the middle of the fairway. Surveying the situation it a straight shot with fairly large green, very kettle slope and flag is located nicely in the middle.

What do you personally do and think about in your pre-shot routine? Full shot? Pitch? Bump and run? What club? Basically, what is your "go to" shot in these approach shots situations?

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45 minutes ago, Dave325 said:

Hypothetical golf situation question... You are having a great round and come to the final hole, a par 4 straightaway with no hazards. You make a great drive and your ball lands about 50 yards from the green, with a perfect lie in the middle of the fairway. Surveying the situation it a straight shot with fairly large green, very kettle slope and flag is located nicely in the middle.

What do you personally do and think about in your pre-shot routine? Full shot? Pitch? Bump and run? What club? Basically, what is your "go to" shot in these approach shots situations?

I survey the conditions. That's a long, long list:

  • speed of the greens
  • firmness of the greens
  • how well I've pitched/chipped/etc. that day
  • what clubs I've got
  • what ball I'm playing
  • what is the wind doing
  • what other shots have I seen on this green that day
  • what tiers or slopes will I have to negotiate
  • how's my ball sitting on the fairway

Ultimately I'll probably start to look about 1/4 of the way on the green - whatever shot I can land there (i.e. flying about 60 yards perhaps) that will roll up to the hole is the shot I'm likely to play.

I might play ten different shots depending on the conditions at the time.

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