It’s up to you to decide.

By Wayne | blog

What I’d like to know is where is the proof that anyone’s theories, preferences or ideas actually improve anyone’s game? And I don’t mean scores. Since half the game or more is putting and small specialty shots. What I mean is more length, more consistency, more fairways and greens and more birdie chances. I guess any teacher can improve a 100-shooter, if they help them improve some basics. Even I could save a 36-handicapper some shots by showing them some basics. At the other end of the spectrum, you are really dealing with players who have mental problems rather than swing problems. Everyone knows that most of the great players in history had completely different and mainly unorthodox swings, combined with talent, an enormous appetite for work and a passionate desire to compete. Yet even Major winners are always trying to ‘fix’ their swings, even when the reach to top. These people are actually looking for renewed confidence, interest or focus.
So my theory is that anyone with half an idea of the swing can improve a chopper and that the World-Class players are almost in the nut-job category when it comes to what’s wrong with their games. So these two groups are not good references for testing any teaching theories.

I think a better test are players in the 4-10 hcp range who have almost ‘got it’, but due to kinks and loops in their swings, they produce bouts of poor ball-striking which consistently add 5-10 destructive shots in a round. If you can train such a guy to get his moves and positions looking more like Anthony Kim…is there any evidence anywhere that a better-looking swing or a better ‘technical’ swing can actually help you hit the ball closer to where you are aiming?

Still searching (and crazy) after all these years.

Wayne DeFrancesco:
Interesting query. I like to think that in order to be a good teacher, and by that I mean in reality and not in perception, you have to be able to deal with every level, answer every question, find every means (such as the psychological for the talented head cases), and help everyone who wants to pay you. It takes a tremendous amount of work, study, and experience, and just like there is “talent” for playing there is “talent” for teaching. I have always said that in order to judge a teacher you have to watch him or her teach and evaluate how the lesson was tailored to the student and whether or not the student left with a greater understanding of what they do and what they would be better off doing, and a clear idea of how they are going to spend their time in order to do that. I work with everything from beginners to Tour players, and every minute is 100% engaging, because it is really challenging to help people. One of the reasons a guy like Chamblee gets traction for his diatribes is that the general level of instruction is low, and there are a lot of people who think golf instructors are con men and self promoters who can’t play and don’t know what they are talking about, but teach because it pays pretty good and you don’t have to be very good at it to get paid. Unfortunately these thoughts have some basis in truth, and Chamblee plays on that fact and generalizes to his heart’s content, trashing everyone except his chosen few who demonstrate his obsession with “simplicity”. There is no “greatest teachers” list that uses actual observation as a selection criteria. Imagine that. Every “top whatever” list is compiled without anyone ever watching the instructor actually give a lesson. It’s pathetic. Nothing but politics and reputation. I’ve been teaching for 25 years and I can tell you that I haven’t met that many guys who really put the effort into figuring out how to play and teach. But it’s a good ol’ boys network, and you’re really not supposed to say anything disparaging about teachers. Everyone is trying to make a living, and a lot of the time the guys who are willing to chirp and sell themselves are the ones that become the most successful. It is difficult to say any of this without seeming arrogant and self promoting, which is one of the reasons it never gets said. I’ve been on the lists: I know they are useless and contrived, and if anyone wants to decide if I am a worthy teacher they can watch my swing analysis videos and the lesson videos, as well as me dissecting my own swing. I put it all out there to be judged. That’s the only fair way. As you watch you are getting (or not) the “proof” you are looking for. Are there substantive changes in the technique, and does this lead to improvement? It’s up to you to decide.

Very thoughtful and frank response as usual. Your final sentence is truth and suggests what we all know deep-down, that in the end self-belief and hard work are the keys to most things in life. I was simply seeking evidence that better technique on average produces better ball-striking. A better technique in itself is surely not the goal but way to achieve a goal.

Everyone knows the Faldo story of how he changed his swing and won six Majors. (He probably started the modern swing-guru movement for guys that were already brilliant golfers – which is frustrating to a 2 to 4 handicapper like me). The question is did anyone ever compare his ball-striking stats before and after Leadbetter? Everyone also knows anecdotally that Hogan was freakishly accurate and had an action that just looked ‘right’ and powerful. With the advent of video-analysis, his swing is even more revered today and nearly all teachers advocate some of Hogan’s moves.

But good timing is hard to teach and is a great deceiver and flatterer. And the ability to repeat something in the golf swing is highly under-rated. So it make me wonder how teachers and even Hogan, could assert that better ‘technical’ moves were more repeatable than those which were not.

But Wayne, you know golf swings (note I didn’t say the golf swing), and I am finally on the right track with your help. I have set myself a personal goal this year. If I can make a meaningful swing improvement for this summer and strike the ball better, I will write to that muppet Mr Chamblee and offer to buy him a VCR.

(‘If they’d had video cameras when I was playing, I would have killed them’ – Hogan)

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